What are the privacy rights of the people you serve? Can they expect staff to keep visits and personal information private? Do you need consumers to sign a release of information? If yes, when?
Some centers seem like tight-knit communities, where everyone knows everyone else, and sometimes everyone else’s business. It isn’t unusual for a consumer to ask staff, “Hey, has Joe been in lately? I haven’t heard from him. Is he okay?”
While Centers aren’t usually privy to health or medical information, the same type of privacy is expected for a CIL’s consumers as what you think of when you consider HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). You don’t have the right to share or talk about a consumer’s personal information without their permission.
This includes not sharing with other staff or volunteers unless they have a need to know and the consumer grants permission. The records are confidential — both paper and electronic — and should be locked or safeguarded. Privacy includes not sharing with other members of the same consumer group, or with their friends or relatives without the consumer’s written permission.
The permission is usually in the form of a written release of information form, which specifically indicates who can receive information, what information can be shared, and is signed by the consumer and kept in the Consumer Service Record.